The four–day Explorer Club conference on Saltspring Island was a true family affair. Participants brought food and drink, prepared the meals, cleaned up, and chatted late into the night before retiring. When Pat Keough rang the bell, everyone ran to the lecture hall and grabbed a seat eagerly anticipating another vicarious adventure.
Paddling the Big Sky. Pat Maher must be a wonderful teacher. Anyone who takes his class on a canoe expedition 2,200 miles down rivers to the Arctic Ocean deserves to be Teacher of the Year. For 100 days in 2005, Pat and five students from the University of Alberta paddled through raging rapids, biting flies, and icy waters camping out or, when possible, begging a bed in a riverside village.
The group went from Hinton, Alberta, to Kugluktuk, Nunavut (formerly Coppermine, Northwest Territories) on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. They followed the Atwabaska, Slave, Yellowknife, Winter, Starvation, and Coppermine Rivers. Along the way, they stopped and observed the people, their dwellings, and their lifestyles. After the trip, each student wrote a report on how the people they met utilize their individual skills within their community.
Sixteen Days to Timbuktu. Anthony Dalton, a speaker/writer/photographer with five books to his credit, gave a presentation on his 1960 expedition to the Taudenni salt mines of the Sahara Desert which was filmed by CBC–TV. Dalton’s team followed the annual digging, caravaning, and selling of salt in Northern Mali.
Dalton’s presentation showed that salt has always been a necessary and valuable product in the desert north of the Niger River. Salt slabs are dug out of the century’s–old surface mines by black tribesmen. Arab caravan operators purchase the slabs and pack them onto camels and donkeys for the 16–day, 500–mile trek to Timbuktu. Touareg tribesmen lead the caravan from oasis to oasis.
At Timbuktu, the salt slabs were transferred to boats and sailed to Mopti, the largest salt market in West Africa. Merchants cut the salt into smaller slabs for resale upriver to Senegal and downriver to Nigeria. The beasts of burden returned north laden with food products, leather, fuel, and new workers for the salt mines. The process that has been going on since the Middle Ages continued.
Dalton said he hoped to follow up his 46–year–old study in the near future. But for now, he basks in the success of his Tristan Jones book, Wayward Sailor
(Next week: The difference between Polynesian and Polar people.)
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